The dilemma I’m a very happily married man and sex with my wife is loving and satisfying. Recently, however, through viewing porn on the internet, I have become increasingly drawn towards watching older men having sex. Occasionally, I dream of my deceased father and some of these dreams are sexual in nature. The men I find myself watching often remind me of my dad. He was successful and well liked, but was also physically and emotionally abusive to his children.
I don’t ever recall feeling any true fatherly love, affection or security in my life from him. Often I wonder if I am now seeking out my father’s love.
I fantasise about sex with these older men, but have never attempted it. Perhaps I should just go through with a sexual encounter and see if it satisfies something in me. I would never give up my wife and family, though, so that would be extremely difficult.
Mariella replies As you must be aware, your fantasies and dreams would be a textbook case for a sex therapist or psychoanalyst, so I can feel the sharp focus of better-qualified eyes bearing down on me as I type. For such graduates of the study of our subconscious, years of training go into honing skills for translating the messages triggered by our childhood traumas and, as you’ve so rightly identified, that’s exactly where this fantasy has erupted from. So, it would be entirely irresponsible of me not to recommend you seek professional help – I suggest trying your GP first, as they can recommend more suitable help. Alternatively, you could look at the NHS website, which lists confidential helpline services you may want to follow up.
That said, at the moment you’re doing no one any harm, not even yourself, so it may be worth a few baby steps before you present yourself for full scrutiny.
I’m cynical about the relish with which a textbook issue like yours would be welcomed. It took me 25 years to return to therapy – despite indications I needed help – after an encounter in my late teens, fresh from the death of my father. The moment I mentioned my father’s passing and tears started streaming, my therapist rubbed his hands with glee, handed me a bill for £90 and an appointment card for the following week. His undisguised relish and self-congratulatory air at extracting this “breakthrough” forged in me a resolve to not become a case study. So you might benefit from analysis but, for now, I will give you my unqualified, speculative exploration of your dilemma.
For all but the most self-deluded, identifying why we feel a certain way is not an insurmountable challenge. What does present difficulties is understanding how those deeply embedded experiences affect our choices, “natural” impulses and decision-making. Professional help can provide the tools we need to employ when trying to mend ourselves. That said, our subconscious is pretty good at cleaning out its own blocked channels. Hence the reason we all experience fantasies, dreams and desires that we don’t necessarily understand.
Navigating the workings of our deeper consciousness is one reason sleep, rest and room for imagination are all imperative to a healthy life. Which brings me to the internet, where dreams are made flesh and often we are the worse for it. A sexual fantasy may be full of complicated historic undertones, but it’s a harmless channel through which to play out the deeper desires we harbour. Whether it’s rape fantasies or S&M, desire for unlikely candidates from our circle of acquaintances, sex with a friend or with those who disgust us, there’s no end to the curious places our imaginations will roam. But when we put flesh on those bones, breathe life into those monsters and limit the scope of our imaginations I think it can be very harmful indeed, making a subconscious journey a real-life desire.
Entering the darker realms of internet pornography is to abandon your psyche’s adventures and walk into a world animated by those who profit from exploiting our vulnerabilities. In that world, your desires become a less fertile place for processing your experiences and a more dangerous arena. My advice is to put your internet fantasies back in the box, engage with a professional to resolve what sounds like a painful past relationship and thank your lucky stars that you have a great life and a partner with whom you have enjoyable sex.
Just because we feel something doesn’t mean we need to act on it. Indeed, the fact that we experience such feelings but don’t act on them is often how we learn to evolve. Perhaps you should be in a relationship with an older man who can give you the love and attention your father never did, or perhaps you’d do better to find out how that absence in your youth has created latent longings in adulthood. Most importantly, make no irreversible moves until you better understand your own mind.